It’s hard to deny that you need to know how to market a book if you want to be an author these days — quite often to our chagrin, admittedly. But the positive side of our oversaturated book market is that you’ll never be the first or last person to grapple with book marketing; so you can always learn from others.
With that in mind, I’ve put together a short list of critical elements for kickstarting your book marketing journey in 2022.
1. Create a plan early
While most book publishers take charge of the marketing, you shouldn’t leave it all to them and only get involved in promotion as the launch approaches — after all, they’re building your author brand. For self-publishing authors, not planning ahead is an even more fatal mistake, because good marketing takes thought, and you can’t build an audience overnight! Each book comes with a slightly different plan, but here’s an idea of each stage:
6 – 12 months pre-launch:
- Set up your mailing list and build your online presence.
- Schedule readings at events and literary festivals.
- Contact bloggers and media outlets for reviews and interviews.
1 – 3 months pre-launch:
- Schedule online events and book tours.
- Complete your Amazon author profile.
- Recruit professionals to organize your launch.
30 days pre-launch and launch week:
- Send out promotional emails (roughly twice weekly).
- Add a social media share button to your website’s book page.
- Send your street team ARCs so they can post reviews.
- Carry out live launch events.
With these stages, you get a solid chance to spread the word and build anticipation for your book launch!
2. Research your target audience
To know exactly which literary festivals to attend, or which bloggers to send ARCs, you need an in-depth understanding of your readers and what interests them. For example, when publishing a YA science-fiction novel, it might seem obvious that you’re writing for 12- to 18-year-olds. But, however inconvenient it may be, not every teenager is the same!
Luckily, it’s easier than ever to get to know your readers — and let’s be honest, writers love a good research dive. Look into where your readers gather online, what they discuss, how fast they read, and where they buy books. Study other authors in your genre whose marketing clearly succeeds. Use that knowledge to create a ‘reader avatar’ — a stand-in that characterizes your average reader you can refer to for all future marketing decisions. The key is to build a connection with potential readers, especially in terms of your shared enthusiasm for the genre, and this avatar can help you pinpoint effective ways to do that.
3. Build your author website
I’ve already discussed reaching out to readers but you also need to prepare for readers to come to you. A decade ago, you could get away with just outreach, but nowadays a good website is a marketing asset you can’t ignore.
When buying a domain (AKA a website), I recommend investing in a custom domain (e.g. authorname.com) from sites like Register.com rather than using free services like WordPress. A website like authorname.wordpress.com wont show quite the same level of professionalism!
You can then hire a professional developer with experience making author websites to perfect your pages. Your website is where you’ll introduce yourself with a killer author bio, your book(s), and build your following, so ensure it’s easy to navigate with well-placed calls to action on every page. If readers made it to your website, they must already be interested in your work — it just takes the right nudge to turn that interest into investment!
4. Utilize online connections
Of every online medium, the most poignant platform is email — fortunately for the social media averse! Author mailing lists help sustain, grow, and connect with your readers personally, since only subscribers receive your content.
You won’t have trouble writing updates — since they’ll hardly require rigorous developmental or line editing — but many authors are unsure of how to build subscribers in the first place. As mentioned, your author website is crucial for encouraging readers to follow your future developments. Make sure you place a mailing list signup front-and-center on your website, and consider offering users a ‘reader magnet’ in return for signing up, i.e. offer a free short story or a sneak peek of your upcoming book. The added value of these magnets goes a long way, and with time you’ll build a loyal readership.
5. Grow your Amazon presence
As of 2022, Amazon holds 68% of the market for eBook sales — and they’re not too far behind in print book sales. Moreover, they’re the largest bookstore in the English-speaking world, so it’s critical that you capitalize on the swathes of readers shopping there. It would take several times the length of this post to fit every bit of Amazon-related advice, but here are some of the basics:
- Nail your book cover. Make sure it’s professional, eye-catching, and it matches genre conventions, or readers won’t spot it while scrolling through the endless sea of content.
- Write a killer description. You’ve just seconds to capture readers’ attention and make them click, so put time into it. Try this structure: “Hook + Blurb + Wrap-Up”.
- Secure book reviews. Strong reviews will skyrocket your book up the Amazon sales charts, so it’s important to send out ARCs and secure editorial reviews prior to release.
- Optimize keywords and categories. Relevant categories will maximize your book’s reach — you can even email Amazon and request an increase in your allowed categories.
- Run price promotions. Ideally within 2 days of your book’s release — this is when your position in the charts can change the most. Pro tip: running a Kindle daily deal is often worth it!
Book marketing is a deep whirlpool to sink into, but I hope these tips will equip you for the journey and encourage you to dive deeper to give your book the readership it deserves. I look forward to seeing your work on the shelves, good luck!
(c) Kim Littler
Kim Littler is a writer with Reedsy, a marketplace that helps authors publish their books by connecting them with the world’s best publishing professionals.